‘With you, Tino?’
‘Why not? Just because your mother’s life was chaotic doesn’t mean you have to order your own life with such an unforgiving hand.’
‘I’m getting better.’ She viewed their sated forms with a wry glance.
‘You are better, because you know you can trust me, and you know that violence will never have any part to play in our relationship. Why shouldn’t lovemaking be fun? Who’s to say what’s right or wrong between consenting adults, as long as no one else is hurt by their actions? What happens between us in the bedroom stays between us. And if you don’t like something, you only have to tell me.’
‘I like everything,’ Lisa assured him, snuggling close, already feeling her body starting to yearn for his attention.
‘Not yet,’ Tino whispered, soothing her with long strokes down her back. ‘First we talk.’
‘First you talk.’ Lisa raised herself on one arm to stare at him. ‘You know so much about me, and I need to understand your nightmares. Tell me about the past, Tino.’
‘I don’t want to burden you.’
Putting one finger over his lips, she shook her head, silently encouraging him, prepared to wait for however long it took.
‘Stella Panayotakis took care of me when I was a boy,’ he said at last.
‘Didn’t your mother take care of you?’
‘I never knew my mother—she didn’t want anything to do with me.’
‘Tino, I’m so sorry… I had no idea.’
‘No one does. That’s the joke. Tino Zagorakis, the Greek tycoon, doesn’t even know if he is a Greek.’
‘But your name?’
‘I took it from the van that came to the orphanage each week..‘‘Zagorakis Cleaning Services’’. What a joke, eh?’
‘The orphanage? Oh, Tino.’ This was no joke, and Lisa fell silent the moment he started speaking again.
‘Everything inside the orphanage was grey until the day that Stella Panayotakis came to work there. Stella taught me that life could be bigger than my life in the orphanage. She said my life could be exciting. She told me about the world outside the orphanage—a world that was raw, and vivid, and only waiting for me to take my part in it. She put dreams into my head, and promised they would all come true if only I believed… It was hard, Lisa, really hard and Stella Panayotakis made me believe.’
‘And when you were successful you gave her an apartment building.’
‘She told you that?’
‘Stella is your greatest fan.’
‘And now, I have more plans, bigger plans.’
Tino’s enthusiasm was infectious. ‘What are your plans, Tino? Please tell me about them.’
‘Well… I am going to have more places like Stellamaris.’
‘More islands?’ Lisa drew up in amazement.
‘I’m sorry, pethi mou, you do not know.’
‘I don’t know what?’
‘When I bought Stellamaris, I named it for Stella, and then I used it as my base.’
‘Your base? You mean for your business?’
‘For my other business.’
‘Stop talking in riddles,’ Lisa warned, dropping a kiss on his chest.
‘I bring young people to Stellamaris, and some older people too… to find themselves. The island is a sanctuary, a place to start again, and for some, a place to start. Many of the people on Stellamaris began their lives in orphanages. I make sure there is training there for everyone, and that Stella visits frequently. Stella was my inspiration, and now she is theirs.’
‘Now I understand why you’re so close to Arianna.’
‘Stella was a single mother, and it was very hard for her back then. Don’t look so impressed, Lisa. I don’t deserve any praise. I did nothing special… it was all Stella’s doing. All I have ever done is give people the tools to help themselves. Their achievements are all their own.’
‘And now?’ Lisa looked at him intently. ‘Tell me about your new plans?’
‘They’re not so much new, as an extension of my existing scheme. I have accumulated massive wealth, and now I want to use that money to help others as Stella helped me. I want to extend my programme right across Greece to begin with.’